Paul Deller, Head of Art at Christ’s Hospital, has decided to hold an exhibition this weekend, Sunday 4th December. The exhibition offers a glimpse of all the work Mr. Deller has collected since he was 16 years old. I had the opportunity to interview him and ask him a few questions about the inspiration behind his work.
So what inspired you?
A lot of people ask me what you do and I say I’m a teacher, then they ask me if you do art and I say yes, yes; I make art and I’m always a bit hesitant to say collage because it sounds like kids work with it. I’m something you work with if you have leftovers or leftover material from growing up. I used to watch art shows and they always said, “Let’s make a collage!” So, there’s something a little cheap about it, it’s a little bit naïve, but it’s what I’ve been doing since I was sixteen, it’s the kind of medium I’ve found that suits me best. So I have this big collection of work from when I was sixteen up to now that spans 40 years and yes I thought it would be good to show it to everyone, especially the students, especially the students.
How do you think your work has changed over the years?
Well, when I started making art at sixteen I was very naive, I literally started from scratch. I didn’t really have much cultural education from my parents. I didn’t really go to the cinema very often. We didn’t go to art galleries, I was told to read books but I didn’t read many of them. I was pretty blank culturally, so I feel like I was really at rock bottom there, and obviously I’ve been in art school for the last 40 years of my life, working as an artist and really immersed in art, and have been for now 40 years, my work is much more aware of what it looks like and who it relates to and who I think about when I make it. If you see the work I’ve done lately it may look less sophisticated than some of the work used to be, it’s a lot more knowing so the work has changed, it’s gotten more knowledgeable as I’m trying to be right now less knowledgeable. I just try to do things instinctively. I’m pretty carefree with what I’m doing now. I often find that the more carefree I am, the better the work.
Has your experience as an art teacher helped you develop your work?
When I was artist-in-residence here (Christ’s Hospital) for ten years, I was very careful not to give any of my ideas to students because they were my ideas, I thought I might run out of ideas. Well, if a student were to somehow use collage in a very patterned way, I’d say yes, yes, copy it, do whatever.” I think during my teaching process, I tend to worry too much about what the student wants or what I want, but I look at the work and try to see where it should go and I try to apply the same philosophy to my own work. What interests me a lot is making work that surprises me. What I do a lot is make collages and then there are mountains of leftovers. I’m always amazed by the pile of leftovers and have often tried to just slide it onto a piece of paper and tape it down, but once you tape it down it looks contrived. I’ve always tried to emulate the freshness of the randomly dropped, simply random type.
What would you say to an art student who is thinking about doing their own exhibition?
It’s a brilliant thing, art should be seen and celebrated, be well prepared, it’s quite an emotional time because you kind of bare yourself and people can just come in and you look in their eyes and try to figure out what they think, especially with young people, because they can be the harshest critics. Be very well prepared, know the space, go in and be comfortable with where you are moving the walls and things. Don’t spend too much money on this, often we don’t sell much work and often you can get into debt so don’t be afraid to do a lo-fi thing. In the beginning, it’s important that you brush up on your work, celebrate it, get feedback, and what’s really important is that you look at it.
https://www.theargus.co.uk/news/23161580.40-year-retrospective-susanah-rwamakuba-christs-hospital/?ref=rss 40 Years Retrospective (Susanah Rwamakuba, Christ’s Hospital)